WHEN CORONAVIRUS REACHES THE WORKPLACE
This blog was updated August 12, 2020 with new CDC guidance about ending isolation and return to work.
What Should You Do if an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19?
Send the employee home immediately, or tell the employee to remain at home, and notify your local health department. Identify all individuals the employee worked with in close proximity (3 to 6 feet) in the previous 2 days and immediately send these employees home as well. When communicating to employees, you cannot share the name of the infected individual or you will violate confidentiality laws. You will also need to identify and contact any clients, customers or vendors the infected employee came into contact with. As a precaution, you may also want to pursue a deep cleaning of your worksite. If you share a building or worksite, you should inform property management. To learn more, read more CDC’s Guidance for Community-Related Exposure.
What Should You Do if an Employee Was Exposed to COVID-19?
The exposed employee should be sent home, or remain at home, and you should identify all individuals the employee came into close contact with, including clients, customers and vendors. You should treat the suspected case as if it is a confirmed case and send these employees home as well. Please follow the guidance provided by the CDC about how long employees should isolate at home. See the timelines described below. If the employee has interacted with clients, customer, vendors or visitors, you should let these people know that there is a potential case. Remember that personally identifiable medical information about an employee cannot be shared.
When Can Employees Return to Work?
The CDC recently updated its guidance for how long individuals who tested positive should isolate at home, shortening from 14 to 10 days for those with mild or no symptoms. It now recommends that ending isolation should be based on symptoms and not testing and follow these timelines:
- Those who tested positive but did not develop symptoms can end isolation after 10 days.
- Those who tested positive and have moderate to mild symptoms can end isolation after 10 days, if at least 24 hours have passed without a fever and other symptoms have improved.
- Those who have severe symptoms may need to continue to isolate for 20 days Those who were exposed to the virus but were never tested and have no symptoms should quarantine for the full 14 days.
Previously the CDC recommended that employer required two negative tests from an employee who tested positive before that employee returned to work but with the symptoms-based approach now recommended, that is no longer necessary. Instead employers can follow the timeline described above. They may also want to ask the employee to sign a Self-Certification to Return to Work which documents this information. Anthros can provide this form to clients.
What about an employee that was exposed to COVID-19 but tested negative? The CDC still recommends this employee should quarantine for 14 days as tests do not always detect the virus in the first days of the infection.
What Steps Can You Take Now to Minimize Risk of Transmission? (from OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19)
- Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase physical distance among and between employees
- Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment
- Maintain routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment
The CDC provides a Risk Assessment Guide for People Exposed to COVID-19 that may be helpful to share with your employees in the event an individual is infected or exposed to COVID-19.